Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.

Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.

When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.

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I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.

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I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.

Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.

My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?

Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.

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In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.

At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.

The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break  will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.

I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.

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Best of luck.

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

I Took a Personal Day and I’m Not Sorry

Monday was a long, but overall happy day. Tuesday, however, was much worse. We’re talking “no-good, very bad day” status. I won’t even go into the details but we’ll just say I left school after a long after school meeting, fuming. I walked to the subway half-furious, half-devastated and entirely exhausted. I did that weird little public half-cry where you wipe tears away before they really drop and try to pretend you’re not crying.

On the way home, I tried to find comfort in anything I could: I’m a good teacher, it’s almost the mid-point in the week, we get a break in two weeks wherein I’ll get to see my family and friends, I love my sweet smiling students so much…but nothing was sticking. Until I offered myself the possibility of a personal day. Not a concrete plan, just the option.

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A little backstory: in January, two of my colleagues in the history department had a little meeting without me and discussed an important topic; my continued full supply of personal and sick days. They’d both realized that I’d never taken a day off and thought it was ridiculous. As veteran teachers with 6 and 13 years experience, they are very protective of this first year baby teacher, a fact I’m endlessly grateful for. So it was no surprise when they both came to me separately and then together to convince me to take a day for myself.

They told me that it’s important to take care of yourself. They lectured me about self care and burnout. I laughed and told them I would consider taking a day in March because that’s the death month with no days off. And then Tuesday happened and I hit the end of my rope.

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Giving myself permission to call out on the subway gave me so much relief that I just continued thinking about it. Eventually, still undecided, I texted my co-teacher and told him there was a chance I’d be out. I wanted to see his response, since he’d be teaching alone the next day if I wasn’t there. He immediately texted back, telling me I deserve it and I need to take care of myself since it was a hard day. There were many emojis, he was excited, it was very sweet.

So I took a personal day and I still got up at five. I spent the day catching up on lessons and doing my homework. I went to therapy in the afternoon and spent the evening drinking tea and spending time with Boyfriend. By seven that evening I felt good, I felt ready for a 7am-10pm day with work and grad school.

And then de Blasio called a snow day. Excellent timing, de Blasio, excellent timing.

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Previous to taking this day off, I’d only taken two days off from work in my life. One for when I was so sick I couldn’t walk without passing out and the other was the day that an ex walked out on me. The idea of taking a personal day just to get my head on straight seemed weak. But my colleagues (and every other veteran teacher I interact with) have taught me just the opposite. Weakness is not listening to yourself, it’s not taking care of yourself. It’s easy to be in the building every day, it’s much harder to be present. And sometimes you have to be absent in order to be present later.

I refuse to feel guilty about this personal day because it was something I needed to do. I needed a reset and re-focus. And the snow day, well, that was just a bonus.

Best of luck.

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Whole30 Confession #1: I’m a Binge Eater

I think the first time I really noticed my binging habits was in college. I lived in the dorms but had the cheapest meal plan which meant I still had to prepare about half of my meals. So I bought groceries, only as much as I could carry, and I lugged them home on the bus.

There was always this feeling when I got home, this itching to consume everything. My home was filled with food, fully equipped for another week. But I wanted all of it. There were so many afternoons of stomach pain from simply eating too much at once.

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Binging is like being this other person, watching yourself consume and consume. It’s not even really tasting. It’s wanting another bite even when you haven’t finished the one in your mouth. It’s not satisfaction, it is only temporary euphoria followed by guilt.

This is not some small annoying habit to break, I know that. It’s a compulsion and it’s scary. The idea of eating until your sick, well it sickens me.

My Whole30 is partially about this. Particularly with sugar, but also in general. I want to remember my identity outside of food, I want to stop thinking so much about what I ‘get to’ eat next. Whole

Best of luck.

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One Year Anniversary

One year ago I had a tequila-sodden conversation with a lovely human being and went from calling that wonderful human “omg he’s not my boyfriend, shut up” to, simply, “Boyfriend”.

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In honor of my favorite person, here’s a list of 12 things* I love about him.

  1. When I text him that I’m frustrated, hurt or upset about something, his first response is something to the effect of “I love you and you are a beautiful, smart, strong person” and then a response to the issue at hand.
  2. He supports me in all my crazy dreams.
  3. When I tell him he’s amazing or wonderful or great he always responds “shut up baby, I know it.”
  4. Despite sharing my social anxiety, he’s always up for weddings, parties, and dinners with me.img_5193
  5. He’s unendingly patient.
  6. I can do or say basically anything in front of him and he still loves me. Even in my stinkiest moments…
  7. He’s a delightful nerd.img_4582
  8. He’s always learning. Being educated because you put years in at school is one thing, but continuing your understanding of the world through articles, books, and documentaries is something else. And boy, does Boyfriend ever love his documentaries.
  9. He’s polite and always respectful. Of me, of my loved ones, of his loved ones, of strangers, etc.image3
  10. When I refer to “the rest of our life together” or “forever” he doesn’t get weirded out. Also, when I get over excited at a friend’s wedding and mention our wedding, he doesn’t get freaked out.
  11. He genuinely cares about others. Boyfriend is that guy who holds the door open, and offers people help, and worries about loved ones.img_5131-1
  12. I aspire to be like him. As I get older I realize the value of loved ones not only loving you, but also challenging you. I want to learn from the people I surround myself with, and Boyfriend teaches me every day.

Best of luck.

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*I considering writing 365 things and could have done it but you would have gotten bored

Feelings Friday: Tattoos, Expression, and Haterade

Two years ago I got a tattoo. It wasn’t a monumental occasion. I’d gotten a couple of tattoos before and it wasn’t anything intricate.

In fact, it was a line.

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A year into my Peace Corps service, I got one line around my leg. After I completed my second year, I got a second. Nothing big or particularly beautiful, but it meant something to me. It was a reminder of two years of struggle and joy.

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When the scabs flaked off and it stopped looking moderately scary, I loved my tattoo. I wrote about it and put that writing on the internet.

Enter: the haters.

Some guy decided my tattoo, and by proxy I, was stupid. He reblogged my post on a “stupid tattoos” blog and because I am perhaps an overly sensitive type, my feelings were substantially hurt.

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